The federal government’s new Defence Industry Policy Statement played a key role in encouraging Lockheed Martin to establish a new multi-disciplinary research and development laboratory in Melbourne.
To be led by current head of the Defence Science and Technology Group’s National Security and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Division, Dr Tony Lindsay, the new ‘Science Technology Engineering Leadership and Research Laboratory’ – STELaR Lab – will open in early 2017. Lockheed Martin says it is investing an initial $13 million in the new facility, which will grow to over 20 employees over three years.
“Frankly Australia is recognised as a research leader in a number of fields,” Lockheed Martin’s chief technology officer, Dr Keoki Jackson, told media in Canberra on Tuesday.
“We did look at a number of other places and Melbourne did beat out a number of international locations for the right to claim this first R&D centre outside the US.”
The new $730 million Next Generation Technologies Fund, part of the federal government’s recently-released Defence Industry Policy Statement, played an important role in the company’s decision to establish a research facility in Australia, Lockeed Martin’s director of global science and technology engagement Karen Duneman said.
“It’s one thing to talk the talk and say ‘we need to do better’ it is another to do demonstrations of how you intend to do that,” Duneman, who lead the evaluation of the placement of the STELaR Lab, said.
“And when we talked to the Australian Government about their plans for improving employment opportunities in Australia, when we saw the publication of the Defence White Paper and defence became a very critical element to employment opportunities and growth opportunities for Australia and they not only put it on paper but backed it up with the new technology fund, we knew that they were serious.
“That really opened our eyes and gave Keoki and I the ammunition that we needed to go to our executive leadership team and say ‘the time is right for Lockheed Martin to do this, and the time is definitely right to do it in Australia’.”
Dr Jackson said the Melbourne facility would be a complement to, and an extension of, Lockheed Martin’s existing research and development and engineering facilities in the US.
“I have the privilege of looking across a landscape in technology at Lockheed Martin that includes names like the Skunkworks, the Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto which is a big part of our cutting-edge space research, our advanced technology labs in the north-east of the US, and we look at this new laboratory as essentially an extension but also able to draw on the resources of the that cross-Lockheed Martin innovation eco-system and draw on a heritage that I think is really unparalleled in our industry.”
Areas of initial research for the new centre will include hypersonics, autonomy, robotics, and C4ISR (command, control, communications, computing, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance).